Deportation and Removal Proceedings: Understanding the Process and Legal Defense in California

Deportation and Removal Proceedings in California

Deportation, also known as removal, is a process in which a non-citizen is ordered to leave the United States due to violations of immigration or criminal laws. Facing deportation can be a daunting and emotionally challenging experience for individuals and their families. Martin Fontes, the founder of Fontes Law Group with offices in Riverside and Santa Ana, California, has extensive experience in representing clients in deportation and removal proceedings. This blog post aims to provide an overview of the deportation process, common grounds for removal, and legal defense strategies to help those facing deportation in California.

Overview of the Deportation Process

The deportation process typically involves the following stages:

  1. Notice to Appear (NTA): The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) initiates removal proceedings by issuing a Notice to Appear, which is served to the non-citizen and filed with the immigration court. The NTA outlines the reasons for initiating removal proceedings and provides information on the court hearing date and time (1).
  2. Master Calendar Hearing: The non-citizen attends an initial hearing known as the Master Calendar Hearing, during which the immigration judge confirms the individual’s identity, explains the charges outlined in the NTA, and schedules future hearings.
  3. Merits Hearing: During the merits hearing, the non-citizen presents their defense against removal, including any applications for relief from deportation. The government attorney will present their case, and the immigration judge will make a decision based on the evidence presented.
  4. Appeal: If the immigration judge orders removal, the non-citizen may appeal the decision to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) within 30 days of the judge’s order. In some cases, further appeals can be made to federal circuit courts and the U.S. Supreme Court.

Common Grounds for Deportation

Deportation can be triggered by various factors, including but not limited to:

  1. Unlawful presence: Overstaying a visa, entering the U.S. without inspection, or violating the terms of a visa can lead to removal proceedings (2).
  2. Criminal convictions: Non-citizens convicted of certain crimes, such as aggravated felonies, crimes involving moral turpitude, drug offenses, and domestic violence, may face deportation (3).
  3. Immigration fraud: Providing false information or documents, engaging in marriage fraud, or falsely claiming U.S. citizenship can result in deportation (4).
  4. National security threats: Non-citizens who engage in activities that pose a threat to national security, such as terrorism or espionage, can be deported (5).

Legal Defense Strategies in Deportation Proceedings

Various forms of relief from deportation may be available to non-citizens facing removal, including:

  1. Cancellation of Removal: Non-citizens who meet specific requirements, such as continuous physical presence in the U.S. for a certain period, good moral character, and demonstrating exceptional and extremely unusual hardship to qualifying relatives, may be eligible for cancellation of removal (6).
  2. Asylum, Withholding of Removal, and Convention Against Torture (CAT) protection: Non-citizens fearing persecution or torture in their home country may apply for asylum, withholding of removal, or protection under the Convention Against Torture (7).
  3. Adjustment of Status: In some cases, non-citizens may be eligible to adjust their status to lawful permanent resident (green card holder) based on family or employment sponsorship (8).
  4. Waivers: Some grounds of deportation may be waived through the filing of specific waiver applications, such as the I-601 or I-212 waiver, which require demonstrating hardship to qualifying U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident family members (9).
  5. Voluntary Departure: Non-citizens who do not qualify for relief from deportation may request voluntary departure, allowing them to leave the U.S. at their own expense within a specified time frame. This option avoids some of the severe consequences of a formal deportation order, such as lengthy bars to reentry (10).

Importance of Legal Representation in Deportation Proceedings

Deportation proceedings are complex and require a thorough understanding of immigration law. Working with an experienced immigration attorney, like Martin Fontes at Fontes Law Group, can significantly impact the outcome of your case. An attorney can help you:

  1. Navigate the complex immigration court system and ensure compliance with filing deadlines and procedures.
  2. Develop a robust defense strategy, including identifying potential forms of relief and gathering supporting evidence.
  3. Represent you in court and present a persuasive case to the immigration judge.
  4. Assist with appeals, if necessary, and ensure that all available legal avenues are pursued.

Deportation and removal proceedings can be a challenging experience for non-citizens and their families.

Understanding the process, common grounds for deportation, and available legal defenses is crucial to navigating this difficult situation.

Engaging an experienced immigration attorney like Martin Fontes of Fontes Law Group in Riverside or Santa Ana, California, can provide valuable guidance and representation throughout the deportation process.


  1. U.S. Department of Justice. (n.d.). Notice to Appear (NTA). Retrieved from
  2. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). (n.d.). Unlawful Presence and Bars to Admissibility. Retrieved from
  3. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). (n.d.). Crimes that Result in the Loss of Immigration Status. Retrieved from
  4. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). (n.d.). Fraud and Willful Misrepresentation. Retrieved from
  5. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). (n.d.). National Security. Retrieved from
  6. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). (n.d.). Cancellation of Removal. Retrieved from
  7. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). (n.d.). Asylum, Withholding of Removal, and Convention Against Torture. Retrieved from
  8. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). (n.d.). Adjustment of Status. Retrieved from
  9. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). (n.d.). I-601, Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility. Retrieved from
  10. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). (n.d.). Voluntary Departure. Retrieved from